I read the recent story about the county wasting $70,000 to study turning a hotel into “affordable housing.” I’m shocked, but not surprised that the county would have a fundamental misunderstanding about the housing issues in the county. One of the contributing factors in lack of housing is that the county, especially South Whidbey, lacks the tourist accommodations that are demanded. As a result, the gap is being filled by hostless AirBnBs and other vacation rental companies. These host-less accommodations remove potential residences from the market.
This lack of supply, both in the rental and sales side, drives up the costs for those homes, it is basic supply and demand.
Additionally, the “up to 50% of the area median income,” would not really solve the housing crisis either. Island County’s median income is around $34,000. To qualify, one would have to make $17,000 or less. Which, unless you are only working a few days a week, would basically disqualify anyone working 80 hours a week, from obtaining housing.
When Langley drafted its “Innovative Affordable Housing” code early last decade, 110% of median income was chosen as the cutoff point. With the need for workforce housing, this would be a much more logical metric. It would also be much more logical to build new housing, that is actually designed as housing (with full kitchens), from the get-go, instead of shoehorning in such facilities after the fact.
Island County has a lot of affordable housing, but lacks housing for those making even $50,000 a year. One huge step would be for the county and the cities to look at increasing tourist accommodations that don’t take away from housing (traditional BnBs, hotels, motels, etc), and much more multi-family, ranging from the simple studio, to a 5-bedroom apartment to accommodate families. There is no one magic bullet, nor is there one single problem. We need to look at things holistically, and treat the actual disease, otherwise, we will just keep chasing our tail, and nothing positive in the long term will come of all of this time and money.